OU rediscovers the run and Samaje Perine, too

NORMAN, Okla. – Saturday, the Oklahoma football team scored when it wanted even if it wasn’t exactly how it wanted.

And good for them. All congrats to the Sooners for dealing with the situation appropriately in the 63-27 walk-over of Texas Tech, because there was all sorts of reasons to expect another episode of "what if?"

You know, "What if the Sooners hadn’t fallen apart at Texas?" and "What if Samaje Perine was more than just a passing interest in this offense?"

Saturday, OU went from the pass to the run after Texas Tech scored a pair of quick touchdowns after quarterback Baker Mayfield, fueled by an excess of adrenaline, threw an interception and the passing game was responsible for a pair of turnovers.

But his current team settled Mayfield down and now the only "What if?" remaining is whether the Sooners will trust a running back with real credentials to carry this team the second part of the season.

Instead of letting Mayfield loose, they let Perine and the running game go wild.

Mayfield threw for just 212 yards and attempted just 22 passes as the Sooners re-discovered a running game that looked like it has more than just some ability to be sustainable. Sure, Texas Tech came in with one of the worst defenses in the conference and is extremely generous against the run, but Perine went for 201 yards and Joe Mixon went for 154. The Sooners ran for 405 yards and no one left OU’s Memorial Stadium wondering why OU didn’t run more.

That’s a question from last year that still lingers as Perine was used extensively some games and then forgotten in others.

"You could not get a better person to not be selfish after the year he had last year," coach Bob Stoops said. "It takes time. He’s been patient and he knows that certain days we want to be able to  run the football , as well as throw it."

OU’s Mayfield has been a bonus to an offense that was void of big-play ability a year ago – at least from the passing game. This year, Mayfield, teamed with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, have put an emphasis on excitement and passing.

The result of that has left Perine and the running game in a state of unexplainable limbo. Good enough to be the Big 12’s leading rusher a season ago and dynamic enough to run for 427 yards against Kansas in 2014, Perine has been just context to this season’s offense.

Count on that changing going forward, but not because of what happened Saturday against Texas Tech, but because of what could happen against Baylor, TCU and the rest of the teams on the schedule in the second half of the season.

"That’s what we expect to be able to do," Riley said of showing both passing and running pedigree. "We want to be able to attack what people are giving us. We’re starting to get a little bit more well-rounded."

Only well-rounded will beat Baylor. A running game takes the pressure off Mayfield and takes time off the clock.

So, what if the Sooners didn’t get any resistance in the first quarter against Tech, and Mayfield didn’t throw that interception and receiver Jarvis Baxter didn’t fumble? Perhaps we’d have missed out on a running game and Perine once again.


"It would have been handy to run it in every game a little bit better," Stoops said. "There’s nothing magical to it."

He’s right. More running in the future might lead to less questions to answer, too.


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